History and Background
Hegmataneh, also known as Ecbatana, is one of the greatest tourist attractions of Hamedan. This ancient city was constructed during the reign of the Median Empire. It was situated on the imperial road connecting Sardis to Persepolis and has a history more than 3000 years. Since then, Hegmataneh has always been an important site. The Median Empire chose Hegmataneh as its capital in the 8th century B.C. Because of its strategic location and significance, it was the capital of many other dynasties throughout history,too.
Hegmataneh means a place for gathering. According to the records, it was mentioned for the first time in a Babylonian text as “Agamatanu”. Also, as it is located at the foothills of Mount Alvand in western Iran, the city enjoys great weather. For this reason, Achaemenid dynasty chose Hegmataneh as its summer capital. During this period and even after, Hegmataneh became a treasury of the kings and monarchs. Famous Greek historian,Herodotus, characterizes the city by seven concentric walls of different colors surrounding it. Pelibious, another Greek historian describes Hegmataneh as a city with palaces in Mount Alvand, where the king’s palace was inside seven ramparts.
Archeology of Hegmataneh
Excavations prove that it is one of the most prominent historical places of Iran and the world. A French Assyriologist called Charles Fossey carried out the first investigations in Hegmataneh in 1913. A part of the site is not excavated yet and even today the excavations still go on here. It demonstrates that it is so rich in history and background. What you see today is a unique archeological site with an amazing collection of unearthed objects. These ruins belong to six different historical periods. Most remainings, though, belong to the Parthian era and the site displays the creativity and expertise of Parthians. It reveals how talented they were in designing modern architectural systems of urban areas. As well as being a modern society, Hegmataneh is a great example of the co-existence of human with nature over time.
Archeologists have uncovered rectangular structures, the irrigation systems and passages of the city. Most of the structures are made from sun-dried mudbricks and baked bricks.
There were seven ramparts in the city with different colors for each of noblemen. Ordinary people could not live in ramparts and had to construct their houses outside these buildings. During the Achaemenid era, a pavilion and 300 units were built here to keep the treasures and properties of Darius III.
It is believed that the historical ruins were once in rich decoration. For example, the doors and pillars were covered by gold, tiles with silver and wooden items were made of cypress.
Golden tablets in cuneiform and a cup related to King Xerxes, Sassanid coins, sword, a goblet, and an outstanding lion sculpture dating back to the Achaemenid era are other valuable discoveries of the site. Archeologists have even found some tools and potteries which date back to the stone age.
Many of these valuable objects are now kept in different museums of the world such as Berlin museum and the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
But among these are the well-preserved pillar bases dating back to Artaxerxes II era, which can be seen in the National Museum of Iran. You can also see many other amazing discoveries in the eastern part of the city. Here, there is a museum showcasing great items such as potteries, metal and stone objects. But the most amazing one would be the Parthian coffins and the tombstones excavated here.
These discoveries date back to pre-Islamic and post-Islamic eras. In one of them, you will see the skeletons of a man and a woman in a single coffin embracing each other. All these human skeletons are kept as they were found during the excavations and the tombstones have also remained intact.
How to Get There
The ancient city of Hegmataneh is situated on an open hill with the same name. It is now in the historical texture of Hamedan city and you can easily have access to it. The main entrance is located to the north, but it is also accessible from a back-door staircase. You can reach the staircase from the city bus terminal which is located behind Hamedan’s Bazaar. From there, you will first visit two old Armenian churches. One of them is Stephen Gregory Church, which is located in the eastern part of Hegmataneh hill. The church was constructed in 1676 and is well-preserved, so you can have a visit before getting to the main site. Although the glory of this ancient city is long gone, the ruins will still amaze you. By walking around the site, you will start to sense the magnificence of Hegmataneh which was once one of the world’s great cities.